I'm considering painting it or having the area over the layout painted. It would be done in a sky blue color tinted lighter. I'm not looking forward to the job of moving everything to the other side of the basement though. Anybody have an experiences or opinions on doing this? Am I fussing over a detail that really won't matter?
Personally, I believe that a painted ceiling, or at least a sound absorbing tile ceiling, improves the experience of operating your layout. You are surely using artificial light, and the reflective properties of a painted ceiling soften and spread light. Also, exposed rafters, conduits and pipes, distract the viewer's eye from the layout, disrupting the ambience. Even if you have open beams and exposed pipes, they will not stand out if they are painted. A light sky blue or a neutral pastel earth tone like I use, will not attract attention away from the layout.
In my case, the ceiling is painted a neutral earth tone that looks like a warm-toned pastel grey. It's a standard Sherwin-Williams interior color and the whole house was painted with it when built. I painted the walls behind the layout, and on its sides, a West Texas light sky blue while the room was empty. Roger Farkash used a darker sky blue that I had purchased, plus various cloud colors which he mixed on a palette, to paint the backdrop, prior to the layout going up.
Good luck with your decision.